The Tribolium spineless ortholog specifies both larval and adult antennal identity

Dev Genes Evol. 2009 Jan;219(1):45-51. doi: 10.1007/s00427-008-0261-9. Epub 2008 Nov 22.


The morphology of insect antennae varies widely among species, but our understanding of antennal development comes almost solely from studies of one species-the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Moreover, this knowledge applies mostly to adult structures, since Drosophila lacks external larval appendages. In contrast to Drosophila, the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, has both larval and adult antennae, which are very different from one another in morphology. Thus, Tribolium provides an ideal system to compare modes of antennal development both within and between species. Here, we report that the Tribolium ortholog of spineless (Tc-ss) is required in both the larval and adult antennae. Knockdown of Tc-ss by RNAi during either larval or imaginal development causes transformation of the distal portion of the antennae to legs. Thus, the function of ss is conserved between Drosophila and Tribolium with respect to adult antennal specification and also between Tribolium larval and adult antennal development. The similarity of the Tc-ss RNAi phenotype to that of a classically described Tribolium mutation, antennapedia (ap) (of no relationship to the Drosophila Hox gene of the same name), led us to characterize the original ap mutation and two newly identified ap alleles. Our mapping and phenotypic data suggest that Tc-ss is the best candidate for the ap locus. These results represent a first step in characterizing larval and adult antennal patterning in Tribolium, which should provide important insights into the evolution of insect antennal development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Insect Proteins / genetics*
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / genetics*
  • Tribolium / genetics*
  • Tribolium / growth & development*


  • Insect Proteins
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon